Increased online shopping during the pandemic has intensified local air quality concerns. More space for retail warehouses is in demand, and the Inland Empire hosts many of them with more to come.
“There is a boom in online shopping due to the pandemic,” said Faraz Rizvi, a community coordinator from the Center of Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ). “We have been working on several projects in the field, that we are focusing more on Environmental Justice…which covers a lot of things such as air quality, environmental racism and hazards.”
The Inland Empire is a population area of middle class families who do not have the time “nor voice” to fight for health hazards such as atmospheric noise and smog.
More than half of the population in the Inland Empire hosts ethnic groups of African-American, Latinos and Native Americans. A recent study at USC stated these groups make up 58% of the population, with many more people of color not counted on the census.
The Inland Empire is known as the fastest developing and growing area in the nation. Populated by over 4.2 million people, this part of California is also known to have some of the nation’s worst Air Quality Index and some of the worst traffic within the U.S.
The main culprits of the high air pollution have been attributed by the blooming local logistic businesses throughout the Inland Empire, with diesel trucks being the number one emission source, then shipping/logistics centers, and commuting.
“Diesel death zone” is what local media and environmental organizations often call the Inland Empire when describing dangers of air pollution. Diesels emit more than 40 toxic air contaminants that go directly to lungs in these areas that are near in this zone.
Joshua Harvey, first year CSUSB graduate student says there is a “strong connection with shipping industries and low poor air quality” which disproportionately affects elderly and young children. The population it targets is the young children and the elderly.
This summer, amongst the airborne COVID-19, the air quality has increased asthma rates that have triggered underlying respiratory issues here in Southern California this summer.
“In the beginning of COVID-19, when all was shut down, there was a notable difference here in Southern California and other places with high AQI. However, once the economy started getting back on track, the levels started to rise again, and as we see, this fire season is rough,” said Fizvi.
All the activity in the Inland Empire and growth has led to a number of reasons why fires start in surrounding areas, with red and purple flag conditions to stay indoors and minimal activity outside.
The core of the poor air quality is due to the warehouses and its logistics, shipping and commuting.
“It’s hard to not miss the warehouses,” stated Alyssa Garcia, Bloomington resident of 22 years. “Old homes and old farms are being torn down.”
Garcia has noticed over the past few years the dramatic change in her hometown where warehouses started popping up in every open field, near residential areas, and school zones.
“Certain areas in the Inland Empire are underfunded by local authorities and underrepresented in decision making,” Harvey said, making references to the number of expanding logistic centers being developed throughout the Inland Empire.
“There is so much land usage in the Inland Empire that there are a variety of factors that lead to negative affects on the environment around us,” added Rizvi.
Given the lack of representation in many cities in the Inland Empire, CCAEJ made efforts on intersectional local projects such as the “Good Neighbor Guidelines.” Its policies within local city planning commissions to hold developers to certain standards when developing.
These standards are to prevent such emissions that are near local schools and homes.
🚨SUPPORT THE GOOD NEIGHBOR GUIDELINES 🚨 tomorrow at 9AM the riverside planning commission will decide on a series of regulations to hold warehouse developers accountable! Submit comments via the short link in this graphic to urge planning commissioners to support these policies pic.twitter.com/rVhDeo8C9e
— CCAEJ (@CCAEJ) September 17, 2020
“There is a connection with poverty and environmental issues,” stated Harvey. His study focuses on international relations, environmental issues, and environmental refugees. Part of the Inland Empire is San Bernardino County which is a low poverty county.
“There is no better time than now to educate the public that habits and that the choices we make can affect us with a great deal of consequences,” Harvey said.
Harvey makes this statement due to fact online shopping may not come from the same manufacturer. This leads to multiple procedures through shipping or business. Each time when purchasing or shopping, we the consumer should be aware of the manufacturing process.
Harvey suggests that it is up to us to be mindful on our part on reducing the carbon footprint
“It is also important to be cautious, conscious and aware when purchasing nowadays and the manufacturer process,” stated Harvey. “Now is the time to educate people on how we can help future generations.”
“The San Bernardino airport has five flights a week for local shipping and logistics centers,” said Rivzi.
With all these new warehouses and logistics uprising, and COVID-19 online shopping, this number will now increase to five-hundred shipments a week. That is one-hundred times more than current shipments come in the San Bernardino airport.
“We are working to combat air quality, reduce emission in our community and at the same time uplift voices of our community,” said Rizvi.